Kongregate Offers Free, Community-Designed Online Games
It’s a situation we’re all familiar with: you’re bored, trying to kill time, or just looking for a break, so you look to the web for some fun distractions in the form of free online games. There is a plethora of sites available that offer up such entertainment, but few that include as many quality features and games as Kongregate.
At its core Kongregate is a site driven by community game submissions. Users make their own Flash or Shockwave games and upload them to the site, where anyone can play them. Almost every genre is covered, from action, adventure and RPG, to puzzle and music-based games. For a start, check out I Wish I Were the Moon, an experimental point and click puzzle game, or Ragdoll Cannon, a game, not surprisingly, about launching ragdolls from a cannon. There are even multiplayer games available, which allow users of the site to play together or against one another.
One aspect that sets Kongregate apart from other free gaming sites is the quality of the games that are offered. Like any community-driven site there will be a share of lemons, but the majority of Kongregate’s games are fun, interesting, original, and well-designed. One of my favourites is The Several Journeys of Reemus, a very well illustrated point-and-click adventure game with some hilarious dialogue, creative characters, and a unique and wacky story.
But Kongregate isn’t simply a collection of free online games; as its name suggests it is also a social networking community where people can meet, talk about their favourite games, discuss strategies, make critiques, add friends, and set up multiplayer games with one another. Kongregate has the usual forum-based discussion area, like many websites, but what makes Kongregate unique is that every game comes bundled with a chat room that allows you to chat with other people on the site, look at high-scores, and so on.
Multiplayer games even allow you to chat with other people playing the same game as you. Unfortunately, there are no rooms for people playing single-player games to chat in together, a feature I hope will eventually be added. Nonetheless, this focus on community gives Kongregate a notably social aspect, taking advantage of the possibilities offered by social networking sites, and making the web-gaming experience feel less isolated and more like a visit to Facebook.
Kongregate has some other inventive features that make it noteworthy. One of the reasons that many of Kongregate’s games seem to be of particularly high quality for free online fare is the support offered by the site. Kongregate has built in mechanics for game-sponsorship, so it is very common to see various websites sponsoring the game you are playing. This gives the site’s game developers more exposure and more opportunities than simply uploading the product of their hard work to a site that may not reward the author’s contribution.
Also, every game on Kongregate is given a percentage of the ad-revenue generated by the game, allowing indie developers a chance to make a few dollars off of their creations. Finally, the site’s users can purchase “Kreds,” which can be used to donate funds directly to game developers. Aspects like these further strengthen the community aspect of Kongregrate, ensuring people that quality games are rewarded, and giving community members the feeling that they are doing their part to help, all while having some fun.
But it isn’t just developers that get special benefits from Kongregate; players have a chance too. While it isn’t fully worked out yet, as Kongregate is still in beta, the infrastructure for a points system is in place, whereby players gain badges and earn points for completing achievements and challenges. Points earned will increase your avatar’s “level,” and prizes and rewards for reaching high scores are being planned.
The Kreds I mentioned earlier can also be used to buy power-ups and virtual items, enhancing the experience for the player.
Social and reward features like these are what turn an experience with a website from a casual visit to a compelling and personal experience. Rewards, points, avatars and special achievements that are tracked and viewable by all other players give the site an integrated and professional feel, akin to using XBox Live.
Overall, Kongregate has some fun little games to play, but more importantly it also seems to be taking the next step in online gaming, towards a complete community-based form that will keep players interested and benefit designers at the same time.